Monday, April 02, 2007


Watching the video of Massive Attack's "Protection" (dir. Michel Gondry) easily reminds one of the uneasy relationship between the supreme flatness of a movie set and the wandering gaze of the camera eye. Like Hitchcock's Rear Window (1954), this video shows a fictional apartment block. And much like Jimmy Stewart's still camera in that film, in this video, it is also the camera that has the privileged point of view. The only difference is that the camera is unmoored: it navigates effortlessly through the architectural spaces of the apartment building.

As in Hal Pereira's sets for Rear Window, the apartment windows in "Protection" are wide open. This affords an unnatural, obtrusive gaze into the interiors of each apartment. The interior spaces are distorted, angular. They often have an exaggerated feel and seem disproportionate in scale.

Sets from Alfred Hitchcock's Rear Window (1954)

Yet Gondry's video goes well beyond the roving camera in Rear Window. In fact, it is more reminiscent of Hitchcock's camera direction in Rope (1948). Unlike that film, where all camera movements are circumscribed within the boundaries of one apartment (wherein all the action takes place), Gondry's video consists of a singular, uninterrupted camera movement that literally moves through, around, and inside walls.

Jimmy Stewart, et al. in Alfred Hitchcock's Rope (1948)

Perhaps then, "Protection" outdoes Hitchcock in creating a type of space that only functions when subjected to the furtive movements of the camera eye. It is not unsurprising, then, that "Protection", Rear Window, and Rope all invite the viewer to watch all types of personal moments, from the tawdry to the murderous. The camera bears witness to an all-too-human space. All in all very reminiscent of some final observations from the late Robin Evans, in his seminal "Figures, Doors and Passages":
[T]here is surely another type of architecture that would seek to give full play to the things that have been so carefully masked by its anti-type; an architecture arising out of the deep fascination that draws people towards others; an architecture that recognizes passion, carnality and sociality. The matrix of connected rooms might well be an integral feature of such buildings.
-- "Figures, Doors and Passages" in Translations from Drawing to Building and Other Essays (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1997).

1 comment:

sevensixfive said...

Did you figure out the trick in this video?